2022 Beijing Olympics Boycotts

Nika Anderson, Editor-in-Chief

Long before the 2022 Winter Olympics began in China on Feb 4, several nations had decided to boycott these games in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has notoriously refused to cooperate in the investigation over the origins of the coronavirus, Beijing has forced ethnic Uyghurs into concentration camps in the Xinjiang region, and athletes were also denied freedom of speech in China. Moreover, journalists covering the Olympics have also encountered limited freedom of the press. There have also been concerns about tensions in Taiwan and Hong Kong along with China’s condemned occupation of Tibet. Chinese premier Xi Jinping believed that these Olympics restored China’s reputation, although this is highly disputed worldwide. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was under fire for picking China as the host country in the first place.

The nations that have boycotted these games include the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, India, Taiwan, Lithuania, along with many other European countries. Athletes from these nations were allowed to participate, but government leaders did not send diplomatic envoys to spectate. Historically, boycotting was a means of sanctioning countries or regimes that are unfavorable to another nation. Washington refused to send a delegation to Beijing, as Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated the Biden administration’s issues over “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.” The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has condemned these boycotts, despite China boycotting the Olympics for nearly three decades.

It is no news that COVID-19 has its controversial and obscure origins in China. The World Health Organization suggested a phase of studies last year to trace covid in Wuhan and possibly investigate a lab leak hypothesis. Beijing officials refused, many of whom stated that this proposed plan was politicized. Chinese authorities have not been transparent about the source of covid since they do not want their virologists to be invalidated. Despite the pandemic concerns, Beijing has pushed forward with heavy surveillance and control. Their communist government has enforced tight quarantine regulations and mandated athletes to download covid monitoring applications on their mobile phones. These apps are widely recognized as CCP spyware, which athletes are finding ways to avoid. Many of the countries who were not present during the Olympics cited public health concerns and these Olympics will remain the “Covid Olympics” in history.

These games were also being dubbed the “Genocide Olympics” this year because thousands of Muslim Uyghurs are being mass detained, sterilized and tortured in Chinese labor camps. The establishments are labeled “re-education centers” by Beijing, although it is obvious that human rights violations against minorities are being perpetrated there. Global protests had been staged in opposition to these games; many polities have condemned these crimes against humanity. The PRC referred to its large-scale genocide as “internal affairs” and even went as far as to claim that Western media outlets attacked their sovereignty. Demonstrations at the Olympics are strictly forbidden by the organizers because they did not want their event to be “politicized.”

The freedom of speech for athletes, foreign press, and others is outright discouraged by the PRC. Chinese government officials warned athletes to not protest against any matter or else a punishment would ensue. Athletes must not only abide by Olympic rules, but also by Chinese law. Towards the beginning of the opening ceremony, a Dutch journalist had been interrupted and harassed by Chinese state police during a live broadcast without any explanation. The CCP was widely condemned for its restrictive treatment of anti-government protests in Hong Kong along with its growing military aggression with Taiwan. During the Olympics, China has also been heavily criticized for using environmentally-damaging artificial snow and for displacing citizens to construct these Olympic venues.

These two weeks of controversy made people wonder why the IOC hosts games in authoritarian nations. Unfortunately this is because it is much easier to organize events like these under dictatorships, where the public has no voice over the matter. In spite of how many records were broken, China’s human rights abuses and pandemic will overshadow the Bird’s Nest Stadium. The world will hopefully look forward to the next Olympic games being staged in Milan, Italy in 2024.